Chamber Blog

Former councilman and Stafford Supervisor Ferris Belman focused on public service

Posted by,September 6, 2017

By Jeff Branscome (FL-S)

Fredericksburg native Ferris Belman thought of himself as a public servant, not a politician.

He was also a “gregarious grocer” with a wide smile and a deep laugh, as a 1987 Free Lance–Star article described him.

And he was a married father of five sons who belonged to Fredericksburg United Methodist Church his entire life.

Belman, who died Sunday at age 90 following complications from a fall, leaves behind a legacy as a homegrown community leader. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Edna, his sons and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Family and community service—those were the two things that were most important to him,” said one son, David Belman of Stafford County. “It was kind of his pastime.”

A graduate of James Monroe High School, Ferris Belman won election to Fredericksburg City Council in 1968 at age 41. The Free Lance–Star described him as “somewhat of a council watchdog, often stressing efficiency and economy for city operations” in an article about his first re-election bid in 1972.

Belman would go on to serve two more terms before coming up short in a 1980 mayoral race against the Rev. Lawrence Davies—his only loss in a political career that would span more than three decades.

“I lost to a good man,” Belman later said of Davies, the city’s first black mayor.

He won a fourth term to City Council in 1982, but resigned the next year after moving to his late father’s 47-acre farm on Deacon Road in southern Stafford. Before he stepped down, City Council members voted to name the Fredericksburg Industrial Park’s entrance road after the outgoing councilman.

“I really appreciate it,” Belman said at the time. “I’m not sure I deserve it.”

He didn’t stay away from politics for long, winning a seat on the Stafford Board of Supervisors in 1983. Known as a low-key campaigner, his get-out-the-vote efforts amounted to $200 in newspaper advertisements that year.

He served on the board, including two stints as chairman, until retiring at the end of 2001. After his last election in 1997, he purchased an ad in The Free Lance–Star thanking voters and listing his home and work telephone numbers.

“My charge is to serve you!” the ad stated.

An independent for most of his career, he joined the Republican Party in 1999.

An FLS article about his retirement from politics said Belman could be seen at meetings with “wide-eyed expressions, grins and deep laughs,” even while suffering from heart problems.

The General Assembly and the late former Republican U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis paid tribute to Belman’s career with formal resolutions, one of which is recorded in the Congressional Record.

A son, Robert Belman, continued what a Circuit Court judge dubbed the family’s political “dynasty,” winning election to the Stafford School Board the year of his father’s retirement. “He taught me that public service is the most important duty of an elected official,” said Robert Belman, who served on the School Board for eight years.

Politics aside, Belman was the subject of some colorful newspaper articles through no fault of his own.

In a story about the theft of his 1965 gray Rambler, he told the Free Lance–Star that he did not believe his wife after she told him someone was driving off with the car. “Nobody would want that old thing,” replied Belman, who had left the keys in the ignition.

He wound up pursuing the thief in another car, but the culprit got away.

Belman owned several grocery stores, following in the footsteps of his father, Mageed, who founded Belman’s Grocery in downtown Fredericksburg in 1919. A fire destroyed his Stafford location in February 1982, but he replaced it with an even larger store.

He retired from the grocery business in 1987, and a Free Lance–Star article at the time said he had “stocked the stores with an abundant supply of friendliness.” If people did not have enough money for food, David Belman said, his dad would let them pay for it later.

Robert Belman described his father as a mentor.

“He was one of the last true gentlemen, certainly in the political arena if not the community,” he said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402